A trip to Montauk can feel like a visit to another country. Its gritty-quaint Main Street and unique fisher-surfer-beachcomber attitude attracts an avalanche of tourists and has inspired one of the most creative food and drink scenes around. Along with must-dine veterans—Harvest, Dave’s Grill—and now-favorite newcomers—South Edison, Zum Schneider—are a new crop contending for the willing mouths.
The Blessing of the Fleet in 2012 was Swallow East’s first day open after taking over Lenny’s on the fishing docks in Montauk. Small American plates—like orzo mac and cheese with bacon and peas, whole fried little neck clams with shaved cabbage and pickled jalapeño tartar sauce—was chef and co-owner James Tchinnis’s idea, as was putting the gorgeous kitchen on display, aided by local architect Maziar Behrooz. “You can see it’s clean, it’s fresh, and people with passion are cooking,” says Tchinnis. Backing Tchinnis up in the kitchen is local Matt Feyh, from Nick & Toni’s and Townline BBQ. Feyh is jonesing for a smoker, so keep an eye out for smoked fish pâté and tomato compote among the nightly specials.
Sweet’tauk Lemonade and Red Hook Lobster Pound are a match made in Hamptons Heaven. Montauk’s lemonade queen Deborah Aiza teamed up with Brooklyn’s lobster queen Susan Povich and her husband, Ralph Gorham, whose intrepid Brooklyn-based food trucks beacon Twitter-followers across the five boroughs and even Washington, D.C. This takeout joint equipped with creaky door (woodworker Gorham supplied the barnwood) will dish mac and cheese (served with four cheeses, organic noodles and lobster meat) as well as seafood rolls (six ways) and downeast bisque. Wash it down with Sweet’tauk Lemonade’s seasonal flavors, like pink rhubarb in spring, blueberry lavender in summer and persimmon cinnamon in fall. Finish with Joe and Liza’s Ice Cream, handmade with Hudson Valley Fresh farmers’ cooperative milk and cream, in their first outpost beyond Sag Harbor.
Among the other enticing Gotham imports is La Brisa, which will bring the same Sonoran-style tacos that built up a following at Tacombi at Fonda Nolita, with favorites like the corn esquites, guacamole con totopos, crispy fish tacos, and chilaquiles verdes for breakfast. Look for the crowds oogling the machine that turns out toothsome, paper-thin corn tortillas.
After working in local restaurants like the Point and Harvest, Matthew and Nicole Meehan decided Montauk needed “something quick” and opened Gringo’s Burrito Grill. “Everything, including the meat, salsas and fixings are made in-house,” Matthew says. “Have it your way. That’s our thing.” Just be warned. The hot sauce is not for the faint of heart.
After three summers of pub grub, the Cross Eyed Clam has a new chef. Chris Hunter, who was conceived at the Montauk Lighthouse when his father was the lighthouse keeper, is back home after working with esteemed chefs like Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud to elevate the oddly named Cross Eyed Clam’s menu with local shellfish and produce.
The Lessing family, in the food service business since 1890, and known for up-island favorites Mirabelle, Lessing’s and Finnegan’s, has acquired the concession and catering rights at Montauk Downs. Kathleen Bennett, an East Hampton Grill alum, will run the kitchen, serving traditional lunch items like fish and chips, Sunday brunch and an expanded offering of seasonal veggies. There’s also a new dance floor
in the ballroom, overlooking Lake Montauk and the Robert Trent Jones–designed golf course, just in time for wedding season.
For those looking for a place to eat and sleep, hoteliers King & Grove are working with city-based food trendsetters Matt Kliegman, Carlos Quirarte and Melia Marden of The Smile in Manhattan to operate the restaurant in collaboration with executive chef Brian Loiacono and give Ruschmeyer’s menu an update. “The new chef team has curated a menu that emphasizes Montauk’s freshest seafood and local produce, paired with an extensive wine list featuring a diverse selection of biodynamic, sustainable, and organic wines. The main dining room offers fresh updates of Oceanside favorites in a soaring mid-century modern A-Frame space, while a smaller breakfast nook allows for a friendly and communal start to each summer day. The bar welcomes new hand crafted cocktails served up by mixoligist Colin Asare-Appiah including this seasons signature cocktail, the ‘Moscato Crush’ (Waqar Pisco, moscato grapes, simple syrup and fresh lemon).”
In the heart of the village, the Montauk Beach House will offer poolside pouring of Channing Daughters rosé and Stumptown coffee, making it the perfect jump-off point to explore every eatery in town.